If anyone can make Clubhouse work, it’s Black people

If anyone can make Clubhouse work, it's Black people


Welcome to Minority Report, a weekly newsletter from the LEVEL team that packs an entire week into a single email. From Clubhouse's recent…
A newsletter by LEVEL
November 3, 2020  •  7 min read  •  View in browser

If anyone can make Clubhouse work, it's Black people

Welcome to Minority Report, a weekly newsletter from the LEVEL team that packs an entire week into a single email. From Clubhouse's recent glow-up to the week in racism, from pop-culture picks to a must-read LEVEL story, it's everything you need and nothing you don't. If you're loving what you're reading, tell a friend to tell a friend.

So you've been hearing about this Clubhouse thing on Twitter. Maybe people have been making vague references to rooms and conversations and piqued your interest. Maybe you're one of the well-connected few who has received an invite (currently the only way to join). Maybe you stumbled on the hilarious hashtag #ClubhouseChallenge, which mocks the tropes that have already emerged from early use.

Or maybe you're too ashamed to ask what everyone is talking about. Don't worry, we got you.

Depending who you ask, Clubhouse is the latest blank canvas of a social media app ripe for Black innovation and influence — or it's the newest destructive force that will further divide us and ruin careers and livelihoods. Here's how it works: Once you're logged on, you're able to join various private or public chat rooms focused on different topics. Oh, and it's all audio. That's right. Every room is like a conference call. Some are like informational, seminar-type gatherings in which folks disseminate worthy advice about anything from marketing and branding to TV writing. Other rooms allow people to debate topics like This Is Us or Lil Wayne.

I've been on Clubhouse for a couple of weeks and have yet to figure out how the site speaks to me in any meaningful way. First of all, I have Zoom meetings all day, so the appeal of having a similar experience in my free time is lost on me. Also, I've jumped into some rooms where so-called experts are talking about topics I'm pretty familiar with and, uh, they aren't experts. I generally find myself entering rooms and leaving pretty quickly — like within 15 seconds. Sometimes it feels like being at a conference I didn't sign up for.

But there are places where Clubhouse can be fun. I've enjoyed the less formal rooms, especially ones that are just small groups of friends. I have a good time with homies I don't see regularly — which in 2020 basically means all of them — chopping it up about nothing. In a way, the network allows you to recreate what makes you comfortable in IRL social settings. If you like big rooms with strangers, have at it. If you want a small get-together, there's that, too.

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With all of that said, Clubhouse is at a crossroads in its young life. Last week, the app saw a wave of newcomers and some moments of relative vitality. One came from a group of Black women interacting with Joe Budden about his abuse allegations. Another saw Tory Lanez get into an argument with one of the Shade Room folks. (And this is all mere weeks after an uproar over Russell Simmons being given access). There's no question the app could go left very fast, but there's also enough space for creativity to thrive: I saw one room recreate Family Feud and another that was just rap battling. For now, I'm keeping an eye on it, using it sparingly, and waiting for someone to crack the code for how it can be a universally enjoyable can't-miss endeavor. Or for the Russians to hack it.

— David Dennis Jr., senior staff writer

This Week in Racism

πŸ—‘ Don't worry, people still haven't figured out how not to be racist at Halloween

This might just be us, but deciding on a non-racist Halloween costume doesn't seem like a complicated process. There are really only two rules. The first: Avoid blackface. (Not as easy as you'd think!) The second: If you think it's funny, it's probably not. We're guessing that two women who work for the Syracuse school system got so exhausted following Rule 1 that they forgot to read Rule 2, because they showed up at school Friday wearing T-shirts with pictures of movie slashers Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees with the caption NO LIVES MATTER. Not only is it hilarious, but it doesn't at all trivialize a movement whose very slogan was forced into being by centuries of barbaric mistreatment! Great work, ladies; we're sure that being placed on administrative leave will give you plenty of time to browse for your next ill-advised wardrobe addition. We're thinking this one would be flattering. (CNY Central)

πŸ—‘ McDonald's defends itself against racism by throwing a Black man at the problem

It hasn't been a great few months for the folks behind Golden Arches. First, more than 50 Black former franchisees filed a class-action suit against the company for unequal treatment compared to their White counterparts; then employees in Illinois accused their manager of using derogatory language, harsh discipline, and giving them fewer work hours. (There was a similar suit in Florida, as well, just in case you were worried that Florida wasn't Florida-ing hard enough.) Lest you think the company behind the McRib and the Shamrock Shake was going to buckle under the supersized weight of institutional racism, though, McDonald's has found a solution: a new chief of diversity of inclusion. Don't worry, we're sure Reggie Miller (not that Reggie Miller) is all set up for success. Obviously, when you've got a massive global company whose franchise model means it has limited visibility into its tens of thousands of employees, all it takes is hiring a single person. Be sure to check back next week for the headline "Reggie Miller Is Reconsidering Everything"! (USA Today)

πŸ—‘ If you were doubting how close New Hampshire was to Boston, now you know

In 2018, Aaron Brown was fired from the Manchester, New Hampshire police department over charges of racism. (Specifically, Brown referred to Black men as "parking tickets" in text conversations with his wife, as in "I got this new fancy gun. Take out parking tickets no problem." And yes, that's a real thing he typed.) But it's not 2018, you're thinking right now. Why do we care what happened then when we've got [waving exhaustedly at everything] all this to worry about? Great question! It's because an arbitrator ruled that Brown should have been suspended for 30 days rather than fired — and New Hampshire's paper of record has discovered that Brown has been making $1,500 a week, plus benefits, for the two-year period that the city has refused to hire him back. Making $140,000 despite being accused of coercing a woman into sex (he settled), telling internal affairs investigators "I might be prejudiced, but I'm not racist," and generally being a shitstain of a human being? Priceless. (New Hampshire Union-Leader)

The LEVEL Up: Culture Picks From the Editors

🎢 Busta Rhymes, Extinction Level Event 2: The Wrath of God

Busta Rhymes is the Chicken Little of hip-hop, except he's also right. Dude has been rhyming about the world going to shit ever since Extinction Level Event in 1998. That's two decades of doomsday prophecy, and there's arguably no better time for a sequel. Thankfully, Busa Bus delivers one of the best works of his career. His 10th solo studio album invites an extremely rare guest list — Minister Louis Farrakhan, Kendrick Lamar, unofficial host Chris Rock, the late Ol' Dirty Bastard — but Busta is the star of this show, rapping at peak levels over bangin' instrumentals. Apocalypse has never sounded so dope. (Spotify)

πŸ“Ί The Shop: Uninterrupted (President Obama in conversation with Lebron James)

In one of the most high-profile episodes of his barbershop-based HBO interview series, the King (along with Maverick Carter) sits down with the President (our president) to discuss basketball, parenting, the short-lived NBA strike, systemic racism, and the significance of this upcoming election. Watch the throne. (YouTube)

πŸ“– Marcus Samuelson, The Rise: Black Cooks and the Soul of American Food: A Cookbook

If your chef game is Boyardee basic, it's time to step up your kitchen know-how. Forget cobbling together hit-or-miss recipes from YouTube; learn from the cuisine mastery of one of our generation's most notable chefs, Marcus Samuelson. In his new hardcover, the man behind Harlem's famed Red Rooster restaurant presents the blueprints for 150 delicious dishes — many of which have roots in the African diaspora. Kiss your struggle meals goodbye. (Amazon)

LEVEL Read of the Week

Could a Civil Uprising Unseat an Illegitimate Government in the U.S.?

Today is the day that many of us have awaited for nearly four years: Election Day. A chance to dump 45 for good. But despite encouraging polls in Biden's favor, there's a whiff of fuckery in the air. Trump has already vaguely suggested that he won't go out easily — what happens if he refuses a peaceful transfer of power after taking an electoral college L? With insights from experts, we explore the effectiveness of measures of civil disobedience available to citizens, should the necessary occur. Read the story.

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